Higgins and Torvald: Selfish and Power-Hungry

     Both Higgins and Torvald are the dominant male characters in their respective books and in the film versions of each. The men have women at their side and use them in ways to help their own agendas. Higgins uses Liza in a bet in Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion and in Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard's 1938 film version. Also Torvald's treatment of Nora in the end of Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House and Joseph Losey's 1938 film version shows how he, like Higgins, seems to care for anyone but himself.

     After Higgins, Leslie Howard, teaches Liza, played by Wendy Hiller, how to speak more properly, he treats her like dirt. He does not congratulate her after she does so well at the ball. He was concerned with proving to Colonel Pickering, depicted by Scott Sunderland, that he could turn Liza around. He never takes into consideration her affection towards him. Liza began to look up to Higgins almost like a father, and then to treat her as he did proves his selfishness. Higgins was a lonely man; and, when Liza left him, he realized his mistake.

     Torvald, played by David Warner in the film, had the same disease of selfishness that Higgins had. He always talked down to Nora, played by Jane Fonda, like, my little squirrel, or my skylark. One act that proved this is when he forbade her to have any more macaroons. It is almost as though Nora could not act for herself or even think for herself. His real power-hungry side came through when the letter from Krogstad, portrayed by Edward Fox, appeared, and he read it. Immediately he was outraged and blamed Nora for his demise, shouting: "I'm ruined, you have ruined me." It turns out that his treatment of Nora was all she could take, especially since, as she explained how the two of them never sat down and talked about anything that was bothering them until he exploded on her. Nora, like Liza, left the man whose selfishness had overcome his good qualities.

     Both these men were morally good, but their treatment towards the women in their respective lives was filled with hatred and selfishness. The women had been there for them. Liza had filled a void in Higgins, and Nora had practically saved Torvald's life. Their search for self-fulfillment and power had ruined their lives.

Tim Alsobrooks

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